Historic: Cardinal visits Syria and expresses solidarity with suffering people

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Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai voiced during a historic visit to Syria Saturday solidarity with Syrians and expressed hope for an end to the nearly two-year old conflict.

“[I express solidarity] with all the people who are suffering in Syria,” Rai, who headed a sermon at the Maronite Cathedral of St. Anthony in the Bab Touma district of Damascus, told Lebanon’s National News Agency.

“We pray each day for the end of war and violence and that a unanimous peace may be achieved through cooperation,” he added.

Syrian Minister of State Joseph Suweid, representing President Bashar Assad, attended the Mass along with religious figures.

Rai’s visit to Syria, the first by a head of the Maronite Church since Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943, comes as the crisis in Syria approaches its second year.

The Lebanese cardinal will attend a ceremony Sunday marking the enthronement of the new patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Patriarch John X Yazigi.

He told Agence France Presse that his trip aimed to show “that there is unity, friendship and cooperation between the Maronite and the Orthodox churches and all the churches in Syria.”

Rai, who entered Syria through the Masnaa border crossing, was greeted by religious figures and thousands of Syrians amid tight security measures.

TV footage showed throngs of people flocking to greet the Lebanese religious leader at the Maronite archdiocese in Damascus.

Rai told the NNA that the occasion presented an opportunity “to pray alongside all who are praying for peace, tranquility, the return of the refugees and that a peaceful and diplomatic solution may be found for the problems at hand.”

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